by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 July 26, 2015 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(009)Thesis:The growth of love between believers is also a matter of gratitude toward God.
Introduction:In our last study we looked at the fact that a growing faith is an evidence of the working of God in the lives of those who are believing. That is the reason that Paul feels an obligation to give thanks to Him. There is another side of the coin: what happens when God is working to increase the faith of His people? I believe that the next phrase is an indication of the answer: those people become more and more free to be what they are designed to be. An what is that? We are designed to be God's instruments for true good in the lives of others, particularly other believers. In the Scriptures, those who were the greatest examples of faith were also examples of personal sacrifice for the sake of God: His agenda and His people. Remember that in Galatians Paul finished that letter by urging the believers to seek to be engaged in producing good for others, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).
I. The Forerunner Statements For This Statement.
A. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12 Paul expressed his wish that "the Lord [would] make you increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all" as a precursor to the establishment of their hearts in unblameable holiness before God.
1. This statement was made on the heels of Timothy's report of the Thessalonians' continuing faithfulness under persecution (3:7).
2. In the larger context, this statement was made on the heels of the Galatian debacle where those "believers" were not continuing so.
3. That some believers do grow in faith and others veer off into increasing disaster is an evident demonstration that the Lord does not always "make you increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all" -- thus, the expression of the "wish".
B. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, immediately after Paul's instruction on learning how to control one's own body so that 'sanctification' is an active process, he made this statement: " But concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another".
1. This statement is under the same realities already mentioned, the primary one being that not every believer is "taught of God to love" his/her fellow human beings [Note the emphatic words of 1 John as testament to this reality].
2. This strongly implies Paul's foundation in gratitude: God is doing something in Thessalonica that is abnormal.
II. What Paul is Declaring.
A. The Thessalonians were making remarkable progress in learning how to work through the complexities of "love".
1. One of the greater complexities is the reality that "love" is both a fixed and rigid "system of priorities" and a fluid and "situational" "system of priorities".
a. On one hand, that God and others are to be rigidly "fixed" as priorities that will not be compromised for any reason is fundamental to "love".
1) This, all by itself, makes "abounding in love" a significant difficulty because the natural "bent" of man is to look out for him/her self as a knee-jerk and unthinking reaction (like jerking one's hand away when the nail gun drives the nail into one's finger -- this is not a deliberative reaction).
2) To have a "love" for God that allows Him to dictate all circumstances and responses without argument is a significant possession.
3) To have a "love" for others, particularly 'saints', that allows their true needs to supersede one's own plans and aspirations is also a significant possession.
b. On another hand, "love" is never found in a simple "one-on-one" situation so that all one has to do is be "self-sacrificing".
1) From the time we come into existence we are immersed in a multiple-multiple person relational universe with significant cause-and-effect undercurrents.
2) In most, if not all, of the situations that exist because there are more persons involved than Carter has liver pills, it is not enough to be rigidly fixed in terms of God and others.
3) Thus, "situations" require flexibility that in one situation will require one type of action in sacrifice and in another situation the opposite will be required as concerning who gets the "love" and who gets demoted on the priority scale.
4) This "conundrum" is made more complex by the fact that we cannot even successfully maintain the rigidity of "God first" unless we know what God's "love" requires, and this does not even ask about those less than God who are in the situation and whose lives are going to be affected by whatever outcome is accomplished.
c. And on a third hand, "love" is never a matter of the "wants and wishes" of the "beloved"; it is ever a matter of true, eternal, need.
1) "Love" these days has degenerated into likes and dislikes and often denies the real need altogether.
2) The qualifiers "true" and "eternal" are heavy operators in this formula and they are not without complications themselves.
2. God is the One Who is actively involved when "love for one another" is an increasing commodity.
III. How Paul Understands This Development.
A. It is no accident that "faith" is mentioned first.
B. "Love" is never existent within a context of disbelief.
C. It is only by an increasing "faith in God" that believers become more and more "free" to put their own agendas in the trash so that God and others occupy the greater position.